TORONTO – A year ago, Canadian Michael Saunders was about to realize a career highlight when he was named as the Blue Jays’ representative to baseball’s All-Star Game.
It’s mostly been downhill for the Victoria-born outfielder since, however, the low point coming recently when a struggling start to the season resulted in being released by the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Jays are giving the 30-year-old a shot at resurrecting his career, however, signing Saunders to a minor-league deal on Wednesday.
“(Management) mentioned they wanted to do it and I (agreed),” Jays manager John Gibbons said. “Send him down to Triple A and see if we can get him going. You never know. Mike’s one of the good guys, a real pro.”
The first step to get back to a big-league roster will begin in Triple A Buffalo where Saunders will look to regain the confidence that sent him to last year’s all-star classic in San Diego.
Even though there was a need for help in left field, the Jays didn’t re-sign Saunders in the off-season and he landed in Philly where he was given a one-year, $8 million contract. But after struggling at the plate with a .205 average and just 20 RBI, he was released by the Phillies this past Sunday.
With so many Jays outfielders injured, at the very least Saunders is a low-risk depth signing. If he can find some form at the plate, it will be an added bonus.
When Saunders was named to the American League all-star team last summer, he was batting a solid .298 with 16 homers and 42 RBI. His numbers went south after that, however as he hit just .178 with eight homers and 15 RBI.
SMOAK TO THE SHOW?
The Jays are making an aggressive last-minute pitch to get Justin Smoak to the top of fan voting for first basemen at this year’s all-star game.
Once again Smoak’s teammates were wearing “THIS JUSTIN: SMOAK THE VOTE” t-shirts during batting practice prior to Wednesday’s game against the Baltimore Orioles.
“It’s pretty cool,” Smoak said of the Jays push to help him get the nod. “I think it’s awesome for the organization to do something like that. It’s just a pretty cool idea.
“It’s really nothing I can control from here. If it happens it happens.”
The latest voting results released Monday showed that Smoak was just 71,000 voted behind the Royals’ Eric Hosmer for the lead among AL first basemen.
Balloting ends at midnight on Thursday.
TRAVIS ON THE MEND
Devon Travis doesn’t want to predict when he might be able to return to the Jays lineup, but he vows it will be before the end of the season.
With that in mind, Travis is thrilled that he’ll be spending most of his rehab time with the team here in Toronto.
“It’s so much better being around the guys,” Travis said on Wednesday. “Everything’s going great so far. I don’t feel any pain.”
The 26-year-old Travis had surgery to clean up cartilage in his right knee on June 13.
The Jays have come to terms with their first two draft picks from the 2017 MLB draft — shortstop Logan Warmoth, who was selected 22nd overall and pitcher Nate Pearson, who went 28th. Both were on the field prior to Wednesday’s game with Warmoth taking batting practice … The Jays were obviously hoping their bats would wake up against the generous Orioles pitching. On Tuesday, they didn’t manage a run off of O’s starter Kevin Gausman, snapping a stretch of 45 consecutive games in which Baltimore starters had given up at least one run.